Let it Be
As humans, many of us like to be in control.
We find comfort in knowing what to expect and being able to structure our thoughts and reactions. Rarely are we ever truly in control, however. Learning to accept life as it comes and letting go of control may come easy to some, but for most of us this is a skill that takes time to learn, and —ultimately — necessitates a change in lifestyle.
You can make plans for each day, but that doesn’t always guarantee things will happen the way you planned. How do you handle situations that are unexpected and out of your control? For example, how do you react if traffic is worse than usual making you late to your kids’ school, or if you find out your flight is delayed? Do you tend to let go and accept the situation — maybe taking some deep breaths — or do you dwell and feel stressed or angry?
There are strategies to help you to live a more relaxed and satisfying life, even in the face of unexpected events. Three of these strategies of letting go are mentioned below.
1. Practice Mindful Thinking
Mindfulness is a scientifically supported technique shown to reduce depression and anxiety. Usually the need to be in control and avoid any surprises is driven by anxiety. Anxiety may manifest itself in different ways, and many people who are “neurotic” or “perfectionists” suffer from anxiety. Mindfulness helps you to be aware of your thinking patterns without reacting to them.
Mindfulness teaches you to observe your thoughts and the daily happenings of life without judgment and instead with passive awareness. If you have a thought like, “I can’t be late to work!” instead of reacting to the thought as if it is true, you would instead notice it and tell yourself (without judgment), “I just had the thought that I can’t be late to work” and not react to it.
It sounds simple, but in reality it’s very difficult to do. Hence why mindfulness is a learned skill requiring practice, and — ultimately — a lifestyle change.
You will reap the benefits if you practice mindfulness daily.
2. Focus on Relaxing — Breathe
Breathing is another learned skill. You may ask, “But we breathe on a daily basis since birth, so what do you mean it’s a ‘learned’ skill?” You’re absolutely right, but the type of breathing described here is “deep” or “diaphragmatic” breathing with the purpose of relaxing and being in the present, not the typical shallow breathing for survival we engage in daily.
There are many different breathing techniques out there, and deep breathing is one.
Deep breathing is beneficial when practiced daily, similar to mindfulness. It also takes time to master, believe it or not, because we aren’t used to breathing this way.
Instructions for deep breathing:
Step 1: Sit or lie down in a relaxed position, with spine straight.
Step 2: Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Make sure your belly hand is the one moving and not the chest hand. This ensures you are breathing through your diagram or “deeply,” and therefore pulling in more oxygen.
Step 3: Take three natural, slow breathes in and out.
Step 4: Now, breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 1 to 2 seconds and breathe out for 6 seconds (or in for 4 and out for 5).
Step 5: Repeat this 10 times on a daily basis, ideally at the same time each day. After a week, challenge yourself to increase it to twice a day. After 2 weeks, increase the number of repetitions to 20 times daily or more.
Step 6: You can also practice this when you start noticing thoughts of needing to control a situation or noticing any feeling of anxiety or stress
3. Accept Life on Life’s Terms
“The most predictable thing about life is that it’s unpredictable,” as I like to say.
That’s just life. The quicker you can accept this reality, the easier your life will be. When something doesn’t go your way and you feel frustrated or anxious, that’s ok; feelings are normal. The problem lies in how you react to the situation. For example, trying to control something that is uncontrollable is impossible, stressful and likely to drive you nuts.
Therefore, learning to accept events that are out of your control, including the behavior of others, will help you let go and feel more relaxed.
Remember, these techniques take practice, practice, practice for them to work. So be patient with yourself and the process. There are many other techniques you can learn to practice letting go of control, but these three are my favorites.
I have practiced these three techniques for several years on a daily basis, and I am still practicing them as it is part of my lifestyle now. It does take time, lots of practice, patience and perseverance, but you will notice a progressive improvement to your quality of life.